Best Wishes Always
by Lucy Finn, paranormal (2009)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22749-2


Is this a joke? Lucy Finn seems to have been inspired by one too many episodes of reality shows like The Bachelor and The Hills to write Best Wishes Always, because the two men in here are frankly the kind of men that make my skin crawl.

This story could have been cute because the heroine is Larrie while the hero is Jo. Alas, it's too bad that John Trelawny, or Jo, is a jerk while our heroine, Larissa "Larrie" Smith, is turned by the author into a symbol of American supremacy. Jo is a genie. Not those "Muslim djinn", which are evil, as he'd tell Larrie - he's a genie, a British one so all you readers can breathe a sigh of relief. Our all-American wholesome heroine is not going to have sex with a grubby Middle-Eastern fellow, praise Jesus and hallelujah; instead, she's literally fingered in her happy place by our wholesome British genie while she's half-asleep. What happened to subtlety, you ask? Don't be unpatriotic - have you loved a British genie today?

For reasons best left unsaid here, let me just say that Larrie inherited Jo the genie along with a windfall of treasures and such through no effort of her own. She's too busy mourning and behaving like a depressing zombie over her recently bereaved fiancé, who went to the Middle-East to kill those natives there in the name of peace only to end up resting in peace, but naturally her grief doesn't stop her from falling for a jerk in a heartbeat. When Jo offers her a wish, she wishes to go back in time so that she can meet Ryan again, but Jo fudges the rules a little and takes her back in time - back to India during the turn of the 20th century so that he can confront the guru that turned him into a genie and secure a way to save himself. Even if it means stranding her in that time period.

Jo was imprisoned in the bottle as a genie because he slept with and walked away from the guru's sister, leaving her to die alone after delivering his brat. But despite the century or so of being a genie, Jo hasn't changed. He's still using women like Larrie. When Larrie wants to go back to the present because her mother is going to send her beloved aunt to some assisted living facility for the mentally impaired elderly folks, Jo actually accuses her of being a selfish creature... despite the fact that she can always wish them back here. It's always about Jo, only about Jo, and he never exhibits any convincing growth in this story to convince me that he's worth keeping. Let me just put it this way: if you have to nearly die to make him come to his senses, he's definitely not worth keeping.

Meanwhile, as she stays in India during a time when the Great White Man is exploiting the natives and using them as pretty much slaves and beasts of burden, Larrie starts showing the poor ignorant natives the joys of the American Way. She feeds the poor savages ice cream! She opens a shop to galvanize economy in that area! And at the end of the day, Larrie believes that she'd rather be herself than to live like those people, saying that they can blame her "American" ways if they disagree. Well, the joke's on her: she's in love with a jerk even before he shows any sign that he has changed. And she knows of his jerk-like tendencies, mind you! It's like having a girlfriend tell me, "Oh, I know he's using me, he lied to me, he is keeping things from me, and he's also taking me for granted, but it's okay, because I love him." I can only nod politely while thinking in my head, "Boy, this woman is asking for heartbreak."

Don't get me started about the secondary romance, where the heroine's best friend falls for a disgustingly slimy piece of crap. And her issue in this relationship is not because he's a piece of crap but because she feels that she is not beautiful enough to be loved!

Both women are proud to have lived in their podunk towns all their lives, never really seeing the big bad world for themselves, so perhaps there is a joke in here somewhere related to how these women end up falling for men who enable their inferiority complex. But since the author claims that Larrie is largely based on her, I don't know what to think anymore.

Rating: 48


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